The Wines of Spain
By David Welch
When looking for great wines with a reasonable price tag, it is very hard to beat Spanish wines. Whether is a fresh sparkling Cava, a crisp Albarino, or a hearty red like Garnacha or Monastrell, Spain has something to offer everyone.
One of the most overlooked wine values from Spain is the fortified wine from Jerez. We know them in the states as sherry and this stuff is not the cream sherry that your grandmother drank on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wines from Jerez come in several varieties, but there are three that generally available with a little searching. Fino, which is light and very dry, pairs very well with olives, almonds and other salty foods. The most common fino sherry available locally is Manzanilla. Although hard to find on the island, they are worth seeking out. Amontillado is a variety of Sherry that is aged and which is then exposed to oxygen, producing a sherry that is darker than a fino. Naturally dry, they are sometimes sold lightly to medium sweetened and go very well with sharp cheeses. Jerez Dulce (sweet sherry) is usually made by fermenting dried Pedro Ximenez grapes. This produces a very sweet dark brown wine that is usually served as a dessert.
Another great wine value is Cava, a sparkling wine made from white grapes. Spanish Cavas are reasonably priced have great quality. Brands like Freixenet, Cristalino, and Montsarra provide a great deal of enjoyment for a reasonable price. These wines are widely available and are found in local grocery and liquor stores.
Garnacha (Grenache) is responsible for the upsurge in popularity of Spanish red wines. Usually these wines come from Priorat, but they can come from Ribera del Duero, Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Montsant and many other regions. It can range it styles from very fruity and easy drinking to seriously structured and tannic. Some wines that are available locally include Bodegas San Alejandro Garnacha Calatayud Las Rocas which is easy drinking and quite juicy on the palate and Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Campo de Borja Tres Picos, which while affordable and easy drinking, has the ability to improve with short term aging.
Monastrell (Mouvedre) is probably the best bargain in Spain. These wines are serious and very complex but are often available for less than $15. The primary regions for producing this grape are Jumilla and Yecla. The wines are very similar to Bandol wines from France but cost about 1/3 as much. Wines that are fairly easy to find include Bodegas Castaño Monastrell Yecla Hécula and Bellum Yecla Providencia. These wines drink well in their youth and age quite well.
The signature red grape of Spain is Tempranillo. This grape is grown widely throughout the country and is found in a variety of styles and prices from inexpensive, great drinking reds, to the serious aged Riojas that are prized by collectors all over the worlds. When looking for an introduction to the grape, a good place to start is Bodegas Mano a Mano Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Mano a Mano or Martin Codax Tempranillo Rioja. These wines are very affordable and while not as complex as the great aged Riojas, they have true Tempranillo flavor and can be enjoyed now or aged over the short term.
While Spain’s great red wines are the most popular, the white wines provide great quality for the price. The best known Spanish white grape is Albarino. This crisp white has great aromas of white flowers, citrus, and green apples and pairs very well with our local seafood. These wines are easily found locally and you can purchase very high quality wine for less than $20.
Although we covered a few regions, Spain is a very diverse wine producing region that produces almost every style of wine. This is because the diverse terrain, from the mild Atlantic coast, to the warm Mediterranean, to the Pyrenees Mountains, the hot plains of the center of the country. If you want great wines that are different from the usual Chardonnays and Cabernets, look to Spain.